By Justin Sink - 12/23/13 01:48 PM EST
President Obama enrolled in a "bronze" ObamaCare plan over the weekend in a move the White House described as a "symbolic" gesture designed to promote enrollment.
According to a White House official, the president enrolled in the District of Columbia marketplace and selected from among the lowest-cost options available.
The White House said the president's plan costs less than $400 per month.
A White House official said Obama's staff helped him sign up for a plan.
"Like some Americans, the complicated nature of the president’s case required an in-person sign-up," the official said. "As you’d expect, the president’s personal information is not readily available in the variety of government databases HealthCare.gov uses to verify identities."
Obama did not enroll first lady Michelle Obama or his daughters, Sasha and Malia. Like the president, the rest of the first family receives free health insurance for life from the military.
In recent weeks, the White House had avoided questions about when the president would enroll in his signature domestic program.
In 2010, White House spokesman Reid Cherlin pledged that the president would sign up on the exchanges in response to an amendment offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would have required the president to purchase coverage.
The president's decision to opt for a bronze plan is likely designed to promote the lower-cost options many Americans will select when purchasing insurance for the first time.
But it could also provide congressional Republicans a line for attack. Under regulations issued by the administration, members of Congress and their staff are required to purchase "gold" level insurance coverage — among the most expensive plans available on the exchanges.
"You see, bronze and silver's only good enough for everyone else in the country. For members of Congress, and members of the Senate and their staff, it's gold or nothing," Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) said in a floor speech earlier this year.
News of the president's enrollment came on the day that was supposed to be the deadline for consumers to enroll in ObamaCare coverage that begins Jan. 1. But earlier Monday, the administration announced it would continue allowing purchases through Christmas Eve to accommodate those who might run into problems.
“The deadline for signing up for coverage to start Jan. 1 is today. We recognize that many have chosen to make their final decisions on today’s deadline, and we are committed to making sure they can do so,” said Julie Bataille, the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’s Office of Communication.
“Anticipating high demand and the fact that consumers may be enrolling from multiple time zones, we have taken steps to make sure that those who select a plan through tomorrow will get coverage for Jan 1.”
Republican lawmakers have pressed the administration to enroll in the exchanges, arguing it is an important symbolic gesture.
In a heated exchange last month on Capitol Hill, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) repeatedly asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius why she had not purchased insurance on the exchanges.
Sebelius incorrectly said that it would be illegal for her to do so, because her healthcare was included in her compensation as a federal employee.
Those with employer-provided insurance can purchase separate coverage through the exchanges, but are not eligible for tax credits to reduce the price of premiums. Sebelius, however, is prohibited from buying insurance because she is a Medicare enrollee.
— This story was last updated at 2:14 p.m.